This policy brief reviews social security systems in southern Africa. In the context of increased cross border migration as a result of deeper regional integration and deteriorating living conditions in some countries, the brief examines the possibility of social benefits for migrant workers in southern Africa being portable across countries in the region. Access to long-term social security such as pension and healthcare benefits are of particular concern to migrant workers. They generally lose any benefits that may have been accrued in a host country if they move back to their country of origin after their work period. In a context where labour migration is big, and set to increase with deeper regional integration, the possible portability of social benefits for migrant workers across countries in the region becomes an important social protection mechanism. That is, the ability of migrant workers to move with such benefits between host countries and back to their home country.
The administrative procedures associated with portability mainly refer to the totalization of periods of insurance in the host and the home country to determine the migrant worker’s pension benefits in both countries, the extraterritorial payment of pensions, and transfers between authorities in both countries to guarantee continued coverage for migrants. Any meaningful regional social protection system should integrate social assistance with social services and ensure that migrant workers do not fall below acceptable minimum standards of social security, regardless of residence. This policy brief raises the importance of such a regionally focused social security system as an important instrument for improving the quality of life for migrant workers; thereby contributing to overcoming poverty and more effectively managing the movement of people between countries in the region.